Congestion in Vienna centre during right-wing ball
Part of Vienna’s 1st district will be off-bounds to the public this evening, as demonstrators gather to protest against the controversial Akademikerball (Academics Ball) taking place in the Hofburg palace.
The yearly event is organised by the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPÖ) and is a known gathering place for Austrian and German nationalist student fraternity members, some of whom are described as right-wing extremists.
An area around Heldenplatz will be closed off from 5pm, with a total of 2,700 police officers on duty in the centre of the city - where around 2,000 demonstrators are expected to gather under the slogan “Offensive against the Right”.
Those who are not attending the ball or the demonstration are advised to avoid the city centre in the late afternoon and evening. The demonstration begins at around 5.30pm, setting off from the university and ending at Stephansplatz - and there may be some temporary disruptions to traffic along the route. The tram lines 1, 2, 62, 71, D as well as the Baden train may be redirected or disrupted. The Wiener Linien recommends using the U-Bahn where possible and avoiding getting out in the centre of the city - where there may be police barriers.
The Vienna State Opera will also be affected by the police barriers - people will only be allowed access to the opera with a valid ticket or booking confirmation for this evening’s performance of Tosca. Access to the box office for last minute tickets or standing tickets cannot be guaranteed, according to the State Opera.
Vienna police have been filming a video to show how they are preparing for the event, which will be available to view on their YouTube channel.
Police will also be filming the protests as a way of collecting evidence in the event that there are any violent clashes and arrests.
Meanwhile, Austria’s Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka (ÖVP) has said he wants to place limits on the right to demonstrate - especially when protests interfere with business interests.
Under his plans any demonstration needs to have an official organiser who will be held responsible for any damage to property caused during a protest.
The interior ministry would be able to decide when and under what conditions demonstrations can take place, and could ban them if they significantly disrupt traffic.
It would also be possible to ban large protests on main shopping streets during the run-up to Christmas.
However, the SPÖ has said that the right to demonstrate is fundamental and that basic liberties must be respected.